Throughout my career, I have attempted to be steady and thoughtful during my leadership roles. I believe that this trait is very important while serving on our Town Council. It allows the Council to function with a minimum amount of drama, it helps insure that residents get good information and reassures staff that they will be treated fairly as long as factual analysis is performed and presented. Most importantly it helps ensure good decisions are made in a timely manner.
Leading up to this current Town Council campaign and now, you may have heard or read inaccurate information and conclusions on more than a few topics. What you haven’t heard from my opponent is a responsible solution to the future application of SMARTGrowth.
SMARTGrowth is one topic that has caused a lot of emotion and confusion. I am uniquely qualified to explain and improve SMARTGrowth. I was a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission when it was implemented, and continue to serve the program today. I was also responsible for providing technical assistance for similar concepts to counties and municipalities while working as a Senior Planner for the Division of Local Government for the State of Colorado.
SMARTGrowth is designed to make sure Flower Mound has adequate infrastructure to support new development. It is not designed to stop new development. SMARTGrowth simply points out where improvements in the support system are deficient and need to be made, and creates an analytical system for the Town and, in many cases, the developer to more clearly identify the degree of any inadequate or needed improvements.
Programs like SMARTGrowth work best when they sustainable over time, and include only the infrastructure that the Town has the legal authority to determine if and when the infrastructure needs to be improved. When SMARTGrowth was first implemented, it included two criteria that were not controlled directly by the Town: (1) Texas state roads like FMs 407, 1171, 2499, and 3040 and (2) public schools. Previously the Town Council had removed the Texas state roads because the Town does not determine if a state road needs upgrading or when it will be upgraded. The public schools portion of SMARTGrowth was amended in 2012 to acknowledge that determining school capacity is legally only a school district function. SMARTGrowth still requires that the public schools be notified of any residential development application or project has been filed with the Town and, if the school district requests, the Town will assist in acquiring needed infrastructure to support the school.
Residents want to know why if the SMARTGrowth plan was in place since 2000, did it need to be amended. Simply, the school district began telling developers it disagreed with how Flower Mound’s ordinance required them to calculate capacity. Until this point in time, the school portion of SMARTGrowth had never been tested; SMARTGrowth had never indicated a project should be denied due to school capacity. Having the school district disagree with the SMARTGrowth calculation put the town in legal jeopardy for losing a lawsuit based on an arbitrary and capricious denial of property rights.
Just a few other points about the school portion of SMARTGrowth. It always anticipated school boundaries could be changed as LISD is doing right now. In fact it required school districts to consider rezoning when calculating school capacity. SMARTGrowth never allowed developers to donate land to meet the school capacity requirements.
My opponent is advocating for returning SMARTGrowth to the way it was in 2012. This is irresponsible because it ignores the potential legal consequences of hurting Flower Mound’s entire SMARTGrowth effort. As an interesting side note in the Dallas Morning News voter guide, Ms. Bowen advocated for listening to the advice of the experts Flower Mound hires, yet in this very important instance she is openly advocating that our Town Attorney, our legal expert, be ignored.
My approach to the dilemma of the public schools criteria as presented was to listen, research and suggest a proactive approach. Initially, the Town brought forward an amendment to SMARTGrowth that would have deleted the school criteria from SMARTGrowth completely. As a member of Planning and Zoning, I, on December 10, 2012, fought that change and proposed a better solution. My proposal required the Town to create a more formalized process to communicate our decisions as it impacts future growth in the Town and has impacts upon the school districts. This is the solution that was ultimately adopted.
My participation in the amendment of the school portion of SMARTGrowth is a demonstration of what I believe a Council Member should do – look at all of the facts, including the facts that residents might not want to hear, and look for ways to protect Flower Mound, but accomplish building Flower Mound in accordance with the wishes of Flower Mound residents. Re-litigating this issue based on ignoring the advice of our Town attorney, divides Flower Mound needlessly. It erodes our ability to come together as a community and build a better Flower Mound.
It is time for Flower Mound to look forward to ways that we can get more citizen involvement in the development process, and make sure all of our neighborhoods are not neglected. For us to spend time debating the past when we are challenged by the future is not a good use of all of our time. I look forward to talking with you about improving our entire community as we move through the election season. As a member of Council, I will work with other Council members to make sure these challenges are effectively addressed.
Michael J. Walker
Candidate for Town Council – Town of Flower Mound, Place 1
Flower Mound, TX